Prince Bob Njemanze, popularly called Ndaa Bob Njemanze, is an elder statesman from Owerri Zone. A chip of the Njemanze Royal Dynasty, Ndaa Bob spoke recently in Owerri municipal ,Imo state capital on the essence on the Valentine’s Day.He regreted that the younger generation has misunderstood the message of Valentine’s Day. He also spoke on the recent developments in Imo State, particularly the government’s recovery of the Eastern Palm University, EPU, Ogboko, from former Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, now Senator. Excerpts:
Valentine is around the corner once more with the message of love. Do you think the message of love, which is what Valentine’s Day represents, is still relevant for a country like Nigeria buffeted by insecurity and ethnic differences?
Well, the message of Valentine’s Day still holds for Nigeria, but unfortunately we have misunderstood what Valentine’s Day actually means. We have not been able to educate the younger ones and tell them that Valentine’s Day is a matter of showing love, but sadly it has been translated to promiscuity. The younger ones now turn it to a violation of the norms. In fact, Valentine’s Day has been reduced to sex. So the sooner those of them in the churches and the elders educate the younger ones about St. Valentine and what he went through in the interest of others, then we know we have a new beginning. Yes, we can talk about herdsmen, killings across the country and kidnapping, and all that; we need to change the orientation of the people. I had said it several times that there was a difference between reorientation and education. We have done well in educating the younger ones but nothing has been done to create the needed reorientation among our people.
Even at the state, when you go to the field of information dissemination, there has not been sufficient love shown to those exposed to the vagaries of that profession – the journalists. That has also created a situation where the journalists themselves engage in latent protest – protest built up inward – and fail to be proactive and honest in their reportage. When those in government realise that it is important to disseminate proper information about the actions and activities of the government, they don’t need to muscle the people, either those in the public sector or in government employment. Those in the public sector now see those in government as being in competition with them, whereas for fact, it is those working for the state government here that are suffering the pains of getting the proper information and finding the best way to disseminate it, but suffering the risk of losing their jobs or subjective reportage. When we now talk about Valentine, all of these show the extent of love and understanding we have to give in the society. Unfortunately, unless you come out to be sycophantic or even sell the lie you contrived and pretend it is the truth, you are not seen as being supportive of the government. But if we point out issues where government tends to derail, that should be seen from the correctional point and not anti-party disposition. And when you see actions of the government that are proactive and in the best interest of the people, there is nothing wrong to talk about it.
You mentioned government’s actions that are proactive and in the interest of the people. There is one issue that is on the front burner. On Thursday, February 11, the news broke that the State Government had recovered the Eastern Palm University, Ogboko, which the Okorocha government said was a Public Private Partnership, with 10% stake to the State Government and 90% stake to the Rochas Foundation. What do you think? Was this a proactive action?
Unfortunately, I have had a history with the Douglas House, which was suddenly changed to People’s House. It was one of those cover-ups. It is like “No animal shall sleep on a bed”, and animals started sleeping on the bed and Squealer started attacking the deceit. There is nothing like the People’s House in Imo State. Douglas House has a history. And the reversal to the Douglas House shows that the( Uzodinma )Government is prepared to reverse a lot of things perpetrated by the Okorocha administration. The Eastern Palm University – in fact, if the Government could ,they should also change the name. It is one of those fraudulent exercises of the Okorocha administration. A lot happened under that administration. We are waiting to see the full report of the Panel on Lands, because that is where the Eastern Palm University falls into, and there are a number of others things like that. The conflict that has existed between the Government and a people like the Owerri people, has been the misappropriation of their lands. We had an administration that had obsession about land acquisition and they tried to fraudulently cover up what they were doing.
How could the State Government own 10% of a University that was built in their name and every money that was used to build it came from the State?
I watched a nauseating video of Okorocha, a former governor, bragging to have so much money than the State Government. He said he has so much money that money does not mean anything to him anymore, and that he could donate one of his properties worth N3bn and that it would feed the people of the State for three years without batting an eyelid. It is not a joke. Government is not a joke. Governance is not also a joke as well. There are several challenges in this State, and if you start talking about them it would seem as if you are singing songs of praise for politicians. If you remember, when Uzodimma came to the saddle, he didn’t come with a lot of credit on his side. This part of the country is dominated by and large by what we can call the opposition. So there is that anger about having been pushed out of government. What they did was to set up the machinery of propaganda, and I think tha one of the best things Uzodinma did was not to immediately respond to the propaganda but resort to taking actions that speak louder than words. And it is working out fine for him. Most of the things he has done are things people are shut up about, because nobody actually expected as much positive actions from him. There was that anger about his emergence, particularly by those who were deceived, those who were behaving like those who took the poison of the Diana Tragedy. I had said that if Uzodinma takes his time he would make the most of the wickedness of his predecessor in office. What do I mean by that? In an attempt to acquire land, Rochas Okorocha brazenly destroyed farms, opened up roads where they were needed and where they were not. He used culverts in place of bridges. Uzodimma cannot close those roads. But what can he do? He has to develop them and turn them into very good roads, like he has done at Chukwuma Nwaoha, Dick Tiger, Oparanozie, and all that. He can end up another Jakande or Mbakwe. Somebody creates room for that kind of success. Uzodinma now has a job to do, and right now, so far so good. The recovery of the Easter Palm University calls for praises for the Governor, but there is so much work to do.
Some people say that what the Government has done so far is using executive fiat to recover the University, instead of approaching a court or repealing the law that created the University. Do you think the Government got it right
Those who make such allegations are being myopic, selfish and deceitful. There was nothing like executive fiat in the recovery of the Eastern Palm University. A proper judicial panel was established and part of their findings was the establishment of the University. The report went to the Executive Council where the Government read out the report and was given the chance to accept or reject the report. If the report was accepted, then the Government should implement it. That is why I talked about education and reorientation. Nothing stopped the Governor from moving in to take over the University and then come back to regularise the process. But he did not do that. In fact, there are more to be recovered. You go to the Civic Centre, Owerri, for example, and you would see that a place provided for recreational centre for the comfort of the people who live in that place, has been acquired in the guise of government and personalize it. That one is the kind of executive fiat they are talking about. If Uzodinma wanted to use executive fiat to recover the University he could have done so before now.
There are also people who have suggested that the Rochas Foundation College, Orji, and the New Government House land at New Owerri should be recovered as well. What would you say about that?
Rochas Okorocha had an obsession for land. For me, so long as these places were mentioned in the report of the judicial panel, the Governor should go on and recover them. On a personal note, if I was the Governor, I may not be able to control my emotions over a place like the IBC land, Orji, which history I know. So if I act based on what I know, does that justify the arbitrary use of power? The answer is no. Therefore, so long as they are contained in the report of the judicial panel, the Governor owes the people of Imo State the duty to recover all those lands that were wickedly and fraudulently acquired.